When we were young (before we accumulated a houseful of possessions), it was easy to find gifts for friends and family—things they didn’t have and maybe couldn’t afford. Later, when our kids were little, we enjoyed buying the toy they dreamed of, sneaking it into the house, wrapping it and watching the delighted expressions when they opened it on Christmas morning.
Maybe it’s my age that keeps me from thinking as clearly but these days, I find myself racking my brain for gift ideas. Either the recipient has everything they want or they’re perfectly able to go buy it themselves. Kinda takes all the fun out of Christmas, doesn’t it? I find myself buying Stuff just to have something under the tree. Bah humbug!
Recently, I decided it was time to get rid of some Stuff, namely the 16 yr. old artificial tree that’s been stored in our garage for the last few years. It was still in reasonable shape but we started using real trees when I refused to spend any more hours (felt like days) putting up this 8’ tree–bending each of the “twigs” along the branches in alternate directions and the resultant paper cuts on my fingers and hands. Glad to finally be rid of it, I offered it on Freecycle and promised it to the first responder.
The next morning, when I retrieved it from the garage shelf, I discovered it wasn’t our old 8’ tree but rather an older and smaller 5’ tree. Used as a kids’ tree, it was much easier to put up and still looked decent. I quickly emailed the responder, apologizing for my mistake and asking if they still wanted it. Yes, they did and later that day, they came by and picked it up. That evening, I received a thank you email from the person who said, “BTW, it’s perfect. Kids say you are the hero of the day.”
Wow. A cast-off tree made me a hero to some kids?
Suddenly it felt like Christmas!
What made the difference? It cost me nothing (except maybe a little embarrassment), but made a huge difference in someone else’s holiday. I thought of the other responses I’d received from people asking for the tree to give to another family who is less fortunate, or a sister’s family who can’t afford one.
The difference, I decided, came from meeting a need. What I’d offered as Stuff filled a need for someone else. It wasn’t the amount I spent, or the extravagance of the gift. It was the privilege of providing for someone’s need.
Maybe that’s why Jesus said it’s so hard for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of heaven. We who are wealthy have no need. We’re able to provide everything for ourselves, so we have nothing to hope for, no reason to depend on someone else’s generosity.
I guess what I miss about Christmas these days is the joy of providing something that someone needs or hopes for. Because that’s really what Christmas is all about. Jesus didn’t come to give us Stuff. He came to meet our need, to give us something we couldn’t provide for ourselves. Forgiveness. Peace with God. Eternal life. He gave us exactly what we needed. A Savior.